PowerPoint Unveiled: 5 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do

Those of you who are “Power”-users may already be aware of these best-kept-secrets, but for the average PowerPoint-er, there’s sure to be a few a-ha moments. Here are 5 powerful PowerPoint tools that may have eluded you.


1. Get in Shape

Sure, PowerPoint offers lots of built-in shapes to choose from, but sometimes the one you need just isn’t included. Did you know you can create shapes of any kind with the Merge Shapes tool?

Let’s say you need to make a cloud:

  • Start by overlapping multiple circles and a rectangle
  • Then, with the shapes selected, click the Merge Shapes drop-down to display the options: Union, Combine, Fragment, Intersect, and Subtract
  • You can move your mouse over the options to see a preview of what each does, but in this example, we’ll select Union to merge the 4 shapes into a single cloud
Shape Format > Insert Shape > Merge Shapes > Union

The order in which you select the shapes will determine which shape stays vs. subtracts. So, if you’re not getting the desired results, try selecting the shapes in a different order, and repeat the process. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination — fragment 3 circles to create an editable Venn diagram or turn hearts into flowers.

Merge Shapes > Fragment and Merge Shapes > Union

2. Eye-Drop the Mic

Did you know you can extract colors from text, objects and images — or even anywhere on the screen — then apply them to your slide objects, so colors and tones match perfectly?

  • With the object you wish to re-color selected, go to the Format tab, and in the Drawing group, select the Eyedropper tool from the Shape Fill dropdown
  • The mouse pointer turns into an eyedropper tool and, as you hover over the screen, a live preview of the color zone appears
  • Once you’ve targeted the desired color, click to apply the color to your selected object

You can use the same process to apply color to text using the Font Color dropdown.

Shape Format > Font > Font Color > Eyedropper

Pro Tip: To match colors from anywhere on your screen — even outside the PowerPoint window — click and hold the mouse button as you drag the eyedropper to the color you want to match. The eyedropper tool disappears when you move outside the PowerPoint window, but you'll still be able to preview the color and see the match.


3. Bye-Bye Backgrounds

Ever wish you could highlight your subject by removing a distracting image background? Did you know you can do this right in PowerPoint, without the need for advanced applications like Photoshop or Illustrator?

  • With the image selected, go to the Picture Format tab, and click Remove Background. PowerPoint will automatically detect the subject and remove unwanted portions of the image.
  • You can then refine by using Mark Areas to indicate areas to keep or remove from your image. Select Keep Changes to apply the mask or Discard All Changes to reset the image.
Picture Format > Adjust > Remove Background

4. Think Outside the Image Box

Don’t get boxed-in by boring image layouts — break the mold by cropping them into custom shapes. The simplest way to apply a shape to your image is by using the Crop tool and PowerPoint’s built-in shape options.

  • With the image selected, go to the Picture Format tab, and click the Crop tool to expand the options
  • Select Crop to Shape from the dropdown and choose from any of PowerPoint’s built-in shapes
  • You can then resize the shape and image within, as needed
Picture Format > Crop > Crop to Shape

If you’re really feeling creative, you can create custom shapes with the Merge Shapes tool. Or, you can simply group shapes (Shape Format > Arrange > Group) and, with the shape or group selected, choose Picture from the Shape Fill dropdown.

Home > Drawing > Shape Fill > Picture

5. From AutoCorrect to “Auto Insert”

When looking to insert special symbols, your typical go-to is the Symbols dialogue box, but did you know you can use AutoCorrect to “auto insert” by typing a few characters? It’s true. The AutoCorrect options contain a set of common symbols by default ––just type (C) to insert the © copyright symbol or (R) for ® the Registered mark. But did you know it is also possible to insert custom words and phrases?

  • Just assign a set of characters for any phrase you want in the AutoCorrect options, for instance, gtm for Go-to-Market
  • Next time you need the phrase, type gtm, and it will insert automatically
File > Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options

Pro Tip: If you need to add Lorem Ipsum... write =lorem(N) where N is the number of paragraphs you want to include on your slide as a content placeholder. When you hit the Enter key, the new paragraphs with Lorem Ipsum text are added to your slide.


People remember more of your message when accompanied by an engaging design, so taking advantage of all that PowerPoint has to offer will help persuade your audience. If you’re ready to take your PowerPoint skills to the next level, here are some tips from my Dear PowerPoint post on working around common but not always helpful suggestions that PowerPoint provides.

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